How to grow a new SaaS from $0 to $20k MRR
In just a few months, SavvyCal used SEO and a Product Hunt launch to reach $20k in Monthly Recurring Revenue within a highly competitive space.
How did SavvyCal get to $20k MRR?
What is SavvyCal, and how do they make money?
SavvyCal is a calendar scheduling tool, similar to Calendly or Cal.com. In short, it allows you to integrate the calendar service you use to make scheduling meetings easier. It then lets you customize your schedule settings and send someone a link to setup a meeting with you. It charges individual users $12-20 a month to use the tool.
The product category is inherently viral, in that when someone shares their calendar with someone, that person has an incentive to link their own calendar to overlay free time periods to schedule a meeting.
🐣 How SavvyCal got their first customers
🌱 The seed audience
Derrick Reimer, founder of SavvyCal, had 2 audiences to tap into when the product first launched:
a) A moderate Twitter following
b) An email list from past projects
Between the two, this gave them an audience size of around 5,000 people. This got the company their first $500 in MRR. So if you don’t have an existing audience, don’t worry! It’s a ‘nice to have’ asset, but won’t take you past an initial burst.
🧠 Learning from the first customers
Because of the product’s inherent virality, any initial burst of traffic generates more than just that group. This allowed the team to learn something – their website had a conversion problem.
People didn’t understand how SavvyCal was different from competitors like Calendly. They rewrote all of the copy, repositioning the product as a differentiator. Overnight, their Conversion Rate tripled. This gave them the confidence to move forward and push more traffic to the site.
If your product doesn’t have inherent virality, consider running ads to get enough traffic to test your conversion. You don’t have to worry much about ROI with ads if you are using them for learning more than growth.
🐥 Getting from $1k to $5k Campaigns
📋 “Reserve Your Unique URL” campaign
People don’t like missing out. Who doesn’t wish they owned the domain of their simple first name? Even for products that become popular, we kick ourselves for not thinking ahead and reserving the name. Even if it’s “just in case” the product kicks off.
Corey and Derrick decided to trigger this FOMO and run a campaign encouraging people to reserve their own link (ie. savvycal.com/[your_name]). Users were able to lock in their unique username and link ahead of the key Product Hunt launch. Corey and Derrick promoted the campaign through social media posts and sending to their email list of users who had signed up for SavvyCal but were not yet customers. This got them from $1k to $2k MRR.
😻 Launching (and succeeding) on Product Hunt
SavvyCal launched on Product Hunt and became #2 of the month and #1 of the week. They also were able to get featured in the Product Hunt newsletter. This all got them from $2k to $5k.
In addition to the launch traffic Product Hunt brings, it has a continued benefit in that it brings in ratings and search traffic (both on Google and people searching for products within Product Hunt).
You can see SavvyCal’s Product Hunt page here.
See the section below on how to have a successful Product Hunt launch.
🦅 Going from $5k to $20k
💸 Trying paid ads
As an experiment, Corey and Derrick tried investing money in podcast sponsorships, Twitter ads, Google Ads and paid sponsorships. These generated some sales, but the conversions weren’t good enough to justify it as a long term scaling channel.
SavvyCal continues to run some Google Ads, which was the only category above to be profitable. This accounts for a minority of their signups currently. Don’t get caught in the paid ad trap. Just because they are revenue positive doesn’t mean they’re a good scalable channel.
📣 Influencer programs and content marketing
Influencers may not seem like an obvious place to go for marketing a calendar tool, but Corey and Derrick realized there was a large number of productivity influencers they could tap into. He started reaching out to Podcasters, YouTubers and Bloggers in the productivity space.
He would ask them to leave a review and link back using an affiliate link. The line between an affiliate program and an influencer program is blurred. Often times influencers will request an up front sponsorship payment, and affiliates will accept commission payment for sales they make through promoting the product in their content.
Check out the post with SafetyWing on How to Build An Affiliate Program
🔦 Turning SEO into the biggest organic channel… within months
After Corey and Derrick saw the potential of content through their influencer program and sponsorships, he knew they could make content work for themselves as part of an SEO play. SaaS companies can get SEO results faster than other company categories, as it’s more targeted and less competitive. You can target people searching explicitly for your solution.
Corey sand Derrick tarted by targeting keywords around their competitors. Specifically, key-phrases suggesting people were looking for an alternative due to some frustration. They found many people were searching for alternatives to tools like Calendly for specific reasons. They also began rounding up content and posts on productivity tools and Google Chrome extensions. Finally, they layered in Educational content around their own product and tutorials.
To learn how to make this work for your SaaS, see the section on SEO below.
🏗 How to build these channels yourself
😸 Product Hunt Launch
The ultimate goal with Product Hunt is for your product to be the top of the day, week and month. You also want to try to make your launch so successful the team wants to include it in their newsletter. All of these things are hard to achieve. SavvyCal managed to, and here is how.
Corey and Derrick recommend holding off on the Product Hunt launch until your product has been in the wild for a while. This allows you to a) make sure the product and website are ready for a traffic push, and b) you hopefully will have an audience and customer base to launch to.
Before your launch...
Find a “hunter” for your product within the same target audience niche
Find someone who has a large Twitter following, AND
Will actually promote your launch for you
Make a high quality listing ahead of time
Research guides online (most info is the same)
Put resources into high quality and unique graphics and videos
Make sure your copy and messaging is EXTREMELY good. Share with others to edit and make suggestions.
Utilize any audiences you have, and plan messaging blasts on launch
Email lists (from current or past products and projects)
Social media followings
Communities you own or are a part of
On launch day...
Launch your product as close to 12:01 PST as possible
You want to give your product as much time of the day to get posts as possible.
Blast all of your audience marketing activities right after posting your product
Many people think it’s best to do most of their pushes when the west coast wakes up. This is a mistake. Send off your emails and posts right when you post the product. You want to get to the top immediately. It’s much easier to defend your position than climb your way back up.
The rest of the launch day should be spent doing the following:
Asking people to upvote, comment and review (comments are VERY important. Try to have more comments than anyone else)
Respond to comments on the post
DM the Product Hunt team on Twitter, offer any additional information or answer questions they have to try to make it easy for them to feature in the newsletter. Never hurts.
🔦 How to Make SEO Work for Your SaaS
Find an inherent reason for people to link to you (”backlinks”) to increase your Domain Authority
SavvyCal benefited from the fact that people would often include calendar links in their websites and social media bios.
An affiliate program also heavily increases your backlinks
Build a team of ~3 writers
This will allow you to be the “editor in Chief” (format of each post so it’s optimized, keyword research, acts as editor, promotes on social media and to newsletter)
Conduct keyword research around your target niche
Again, use the advantage of highly targeted, niche searches that are almost certain to result in a conversion
Don’t get discouraged by estimated search volume, it’s often under estimated and you really don’t need that many if the search is targeted enough.
Publish 10-20 content pieces a month (really)
This is why you’ll need the team of writers
Focus on internal linking
If you’ve done Step 1 correctly, you won’t need to worry about much external linking
Link to other relevant articles you’ve made
Focus on increasing your backlink profile to make it more desirable to link to vs. doing direct outreach for backlinks
You can do some guest blogging, ask for link. Also newsletter swap with giveaways.